Union officials Obama: "Politics as Usual"

After the intense attacks from Obama's campaign against the 527 groups who are union sponsored, labor officials are hitting back, decrying that Obama is weakening the position of labor, which is already the subject of right wing and corporate attack.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/010 8/7652.html

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign manager has spent the final days of the Iowa campaign railing against "big interests" that have poured a "flood of Washington money" into the state in "underhanded" efforts to support his rivals.

But more than three-quarters of that money has come from a pillar of the Democratic Party: labor unions.

That's right 3/4ths of the "special interest" money is coming from everyday union workers who are trying to fight for a better working wage, healthcare, and the very existence of the middle class.

"I'm taken aback that somebody like Obama would think that Oprah Winfrey has a greater right to participate in the political process than the 4 million people I represent," Edward J. McElroy, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has spent $799,619 on New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's behalf, said, referring to the television host's high-profile support for Obama. "It's sour grapes. It sounds just like the charges the Republicans make."

Jennifer Farmer, a spokeswoman for an Ohio Service Employees International Union council -- one of several unions that have given more than $1 million combined to a fund that aids Edwards -- dismissed Obama's complaints as "politics as usual."

Maybe there is more to this with David Plouffe, who circulated the "special interests" email for Obama.

In 2004, for instance, Plouffe managed the campaign of House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt, while Obama's communications director, Robert Gibbs, worked for an independent group funded by Gephardt supporters that aired a notorious ad attacking former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's national security credentials by using the visage of Osama bin Laden.

Maybe, Plouffe, after seeing how little labor and unions helped Gephardt, decided they really did not matter this time around and figured it was fair game to attack them.

Either way, the unions will not forget the Obama campaign attempting to marginalize the last of the old guard of the democratic party: labor.

I will let someone else tell you about Unions: Elizabeth Edwards


The best anti poverty movement we have ever had is the unions.
The truth is that big business does not need an administration that is advocating for them, they've got a plenty of power, in this country - socially, economically - they can dictate the policies they want. We need an administration that is thinking about all the workers, the people who are the backbone of the country. That is who John (Edwards) is thinking about.

(P.S. sorry bout the Rupert Murdoch rant at the beginning)
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John has done an enormous amount both on the campaign and really importantly, I think, before the campaign. This is not something he adopted as a campaign issue. He has walked the picket lines, worked with organizing thousands of workers around the country. He has pressured emoployers who are not treating employees correctly, or are not cooperating with organizing activities

I can tell you here on the ground in Iowa, the SEIU union folks know who has their back, John Edwards, and they remember Obama seeking their endorsement.

Edwards/Obama 2008

Tags: 2008 elections, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Presidential, Primaries (all tags)

Comments

46 Comments

Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

What they really are arguing for is "Politics as Usual", when Unions hold a much greater impact than individuals.  What is wrong with Unions having to rally their members to pour their money into Edwards through individual donations to his campaign?  That is the new politics.  Creating a 527 with Bunny Mellon kicking in 1/3 of the money is old school, backroom, our interests are more important than your interests, old-school politics at its worst wrapped up in the cloak of everything the Union does is okay and anyone who objects in anti-Union.  I for one am sick of it.

by Piuma 2008-01-01 08:50AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

Uh huh. And apparently Oprah's interests are more important than the millions of union members who are backing either Edwards or Clinton. Of course unions hold much greater impact than individuals. Any group is typically more powerful than an individual. It's the whole reason for coops, unions, and government itself. Saying that individuals should always be exalted at the expense of the greater good is what the right-wing has espoused for decades now. If that's the "new politics" then I for one am sick of it already.

by adamterando 2008-01-01 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

Oprah could easily create a 527 and pour millions of advertising into the campaign.  She has not.  She used her popularity to help Barack attract thousands of people and the campaign to gather thousands of supporter cards.  No one is objecting to the Unions doing the same thing.  Under the new campaign finance laws, and the ideal that both Obama and Edwards have been preaching, that would be the proper role of Unions - endorse a candidate, turn out their members to work for the campaign, encourage them to contribute financially.  All of that is fine.  But the SEIU is holding on to an old school style of politics that even Edwards does not endorse.

by Piuma 2008-01-01 09:49AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

I definitely don't trust Obama, he's willing to throw anyone under the bus to get ahead, Gore, labor unions, the environment (remember CTL?), gays. As long as it helps Obama.

by MassEyesandEars 2008-01-01 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

Most blue and pink collar workers I know do not have spare money to donate to campaigns.  This is why unions represent these workers, and this explains why these workers maintain their union membership.

by truthteller2007 2008-01-01 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

I am really, really shocked to hear this kind of argument from a Democrat.  The basic organizing principle of unions is collective action and the idea that empowering workers means you have to let them speak with a single voice.  If you have a problem with that, then we disagree about a lot more than just campaign financing.

by Steve M 2008-01-01 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

You need a much better argument than that.  This isn't a labor struggle, it is electing the President of the United States where every individual voter is supposed to have the same rights and same power.  You are using a labor model to hide the basic inequality of what you are proposing.  And I personally find it really shocking that you think it is okay for the Union to accept $500,000 from one person and then call it empowering workers to speak with a single voice.  Oprah did not distort the process but Bunny Mellon has, with the SEIU her willing accomplice.  Speak to that.  Is that what you think the Democratic Party should stand for?  Think it through.

by Piuma 2008-01-01 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

But somehow it is acceptable for powerful families such as the Crown family, who earned millions from the relocation of Maytag's facilities to China, to bundle hundreds of thousands of dollars to a candidate who then claims unions are special interests.  

by truthteller2007 2008-01-01 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

Who did the Crown family bundle for?

by del 2008-01-01 06:02PM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

Barack Obama

by truthteller2007 2008-01-01 10:04PM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

Any group of people can pool their funds to obtain a microphone just as the unions have.  Because you're an Obama supporter, you think it's perfectly fair that a non-political celebrity like Oprah can have an effect on the process completely out of proportion to her status as a single individual, but I assure you that not everyone agrees.

What are the odds that your own candidate happens to have completely pure sources of funding and support, while everyone else's major supporters represent gross distortions of the system?  The reality is that you're simply not objective.  If the situations were reversed and your candidate were the one with the union support then you wouldn't see a damn thing wrong with it.

Atrios is 100% right about this.

by Steve M 2008-01-01 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

Don't try to speak for what I would think about an issue.  Fuck you. If the tables were turned I would still be against it and matter of fact, Steve, I personally called Jennifer at Vote Hope and told her as an Obama supporter I was outraged at their effort and they should listen to the wishes of the campaign.  So speak for yourself.  You think 527s are good for our politics?  Then don't complain when Republicans pull together contributions in the hundreds of thousands from fat-cat corporation CEOs and take down the democratic candidate.

by Piuma 2008-01-01 10:16AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

My apologies for finding it more than a coincidence that you agree with Obama on every single issue that comes up.

I do not think the solution to 527s or anything else you might perceive to be a problem with money in politics is to engage in unilateral disarmament in advance of a chance in the law that would affect everyone equally.

I also think there is a legitimate free speech argument at some point down this road towards perfect elections free of any undue influence.  I don't pretend to know where the line should be drawn, but when we're talking about prohibiting ordinary individuals from pooling their contributions so they can have some degree of influence on the process, together with all the other people who get to have a degree of influence, it makes me start to wonder if we're going too far.

by Steve M 2008-01-01 10:34AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

The find the arguments he or she is espousing sanctimonious.

by truthteller2007 2008-01-01 10:35AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

I'm not arguing for stopping ordinary individuals from pooling their contributions, in fact that's what bundling is all about which is so often misrepresented here.  But Unions need to change if they actually do support Democratic causes, which campaign finance reform is one of the biggies.  The unspoken Union problem is that in too many instances the politics of the individual members is quite different than that of the leadership and certainly the commitment is.  The Unions force them to donate to campaigns by collecting a lot of this money through their dues.  Take that away, will the individual members take that money and freely give it to the endorsed candidate through voluntary donations bundled by their leadership?  I'm not too sure.  But Unions need to redefine their methods of political influence to better reflect what we as a Party are supposedly after.  

I've seen a lot of people supporting the SIEU on this, but haven't seen anyone really saying I think Bunny Mellon being able to donate $500,000 to John Edwards is something I think is a good idea for our democracy and our political process.  But you can't support one, without supporting the other.  John Edwards understands this.  I find it quite hypocritical that so many of his supporters don't seem to agree with him.

by Piuma 2008-01-01 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

The Unions force them to donate to campaigns by collecting a lot of this money through their dues.

That is illegal. Dues may not be used for political purposes. Unions have separate funds for political use. Donation to these funds is completely voluntary.

Are you sure you're not a Republican? You sound like one.

by antiHyde 2008-01-01 05:04PM | 0 recs
Re: You'd Better Think This Through, Piuma...

You don't know what you're talking about with regard to Barack Obama. Evidence emerges every single day about his lies, his mendacities, his support for right-wing organizations and policies. Now, there is more info about his CAFA vote. So, you'd better read this, and you'd best "think it through" yourself:

First, remember what Mr. Obama just said about John Edwards, you know, throwing out the "trial lawyer" adjective, which he actually meant as an insult? Via California Joe, who is a class action lawyer:

Obama may as well dropped the N-word on me. My job each day is to enforce laws that protect people against big corporations. Obama's rhetoric is right out of the American Enterprise Institute. That's right, while AEI's job #1 is mongering wars, job #2 is attacking us "trial lawyers."

Among other things, the AEI and its wingnut welfare allies bankroll two astroturf blogs that do nothing but attack progressive lawyers. They are http://www.pointoflaw.com/ and http://overlawyered.com/... Obama has once again joined these corporate goons. ... ..

... .. Specifically, Barack Obama voted for the Orwellian-named "Class Action Fairness Act" or "CAFA." This law gravely harmed small businesses and middle class consumers. Zero members of the Democratic coalition favored it Unions, civil rights and consumer groups, and public employees opposed it. CAFA, by contrast, was supported by Bush, Lott, McCain, Santorum, George Allen, Bill Frist, Joe Lieberman, Conrad Burns, Grover Norquist, Mel Martinez, the credit card industry, the oil companies, and the big insurance companies. Barack Obama took their side, not ours.

Opposing CAFA in the Senate was the core of the Democratic Caucus, including Feingold, Kennedy, Kerry, Reid, Durban, Leahy, Boxer, Wyden, Harkin, Clinton, Biden, Sarbanes, Corzine, Stabenow, Dorgan, Murray, and Lautenberg.

Opposing CAFA from outside of the Senate were Bill Clinton and John Edwards. President Clinton vetoed similar legislation in 1995. ... ..

If you don't know much about CAFA, you're not alone. Via Salon.com:

The Erin Brockoviches of America may have a much tougher time going after polluters now that the Class Action Fairness Act is speeding through Congress toward President Bush's desk.

The bill, a long-standing priority of the Bush administration and its corporate contributors, passed in the Senate on Thursday and is expected to sail through the House next week. It will move most major class-action lawsuits from state courts to federal courts, purportedly in an attempt to bring about order and fairness in America's judicial system. Proponents of the bill claim that the current system allows plaintiffs' attorneys to seek out local courts with agreeable track records on rulings and negotiate settlement awards for victims that are inconsistent from state to state. ... ..

Erin Brockovich, drop dead

Joining Joe Lieberman, Barack Obama voted for this bill.

So when things got hot last week, no wonder he spat the "trial lawyer" line at John Edwards. A man who's actually fought for people, acting as their giant slayer.

As for Hillary Clinton, she voted against CAFA.

That's because she's actually a Democrat; you know, with an ideology and principles that have something to do with why we fight these battles.

But as has been shown time and again, Mr. Obama talks a lot about standing up, but when it's time to fight he ducks, votes "present," or compromises by siding with Republicans. Are you getting the picture yet?

http://www.taylormarsh.com/

by Tennessean 2008-01-02 04:35AM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;
There are so few union members now - and for Obama to attack unions is music to Repubs ears.
Obama is a traitor to the Democratic Party.
by annefrank 2008-01-01 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: &quot;Politics as Usual&quot;
There are so few union members now - and for Obama to attack unions is music to Repubs ears.
Obama is a traitor to the Democratic Party.
by annefrank 2008-01-01 02:46PM | 0 recs
&quot;Politics as Usual&quot;

You know...there's only so much the Union is going to take before they tell Obama to fuck off, even if he wins the nomination.

PS Where are all these pro union Edwards supporters? They declared war on Clinton for Penn but when they're being publically and directly assaulted by Obama they're silent.

PS.Barack Obama...whatever happened to the politics of hope?

by world dictator 2008-01-01 08:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama

I thought Atrios had a really good point.

One thing I really hate are all the fake scandals about "outside money." Campaign finance laws are quite the tricky thing and whatever the intent behind them they do end up making it harder for some people to participate in the political process. And participation is a good thing. I don't mean this is a slam on Obama - all the candidates will play these games - but I thought this quote was dead on.

And top union officials who support Obama's rivals are in turn accusing the Illinois Democrat, who once sought their endorsements, of trying to damage labor's political role.

"I'm taken aback that somebody like Obama would think that Oprah Winfrey has a greater right to participate in the political process than the four million people I represent," said Edward J. McElroy, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has spent $799,619 on Sen. Hillary Clinton's behalf, referring to the television host's high-profile support for Obama. "It's sour grapes. It sounds just like the charges the Republicans make."

Some people have ready access to big microphones and can participate in the political process and reach a lot of people effortlessly. Most people require money to be heard. Pulling money together and using it to participate in the political discourse is not an inherently bad thing.

by Steve M 2008-01-01 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama

And you claim to be worried about the free speech aspect of this?  What does Oprah have to do with this   Are you saying because she is famous and a lot of people respect her opinion that she shouldn't be allowed to express it?  All Oprah did was appear and speak her mind.  She contributed $4600, just the same as thousands of people have for all candidates.  She helped raise money just the same as Forger did for Edwards.  She did not though contribute $500,000.  What Edward McElroy really is saying is that he should have more influence than Oprah.  Do you really think that all 4 million of those he represents in fact support Hillary Clinton?  Oprah never misrepresented herself as speaking for the millions who watch her show.  

by Piuma 2008-01-01 11:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama

No, I am not saying Oprah should not be allowed to express her opinion, since you felt it necessary to raise that ridiculous strawman.

by Steve M 2008-01-01 01:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama

I didn't raise it, you said Atrios had a good point when he brought Oprah into the conversation.  What does Oprah have to do with this at all?

by Piuma 2008-01-01 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama

It's a really simple point.  I have to think you're feigning a lack of understanding.

by Steve M 2008-01-01 03:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama

The point isn't that there is something wrong with Oprah, the point is that Oprah has a megaphone, by virtue of her celebrity.  Unions aren't celebrities, so the only way they can get a megaphone is by aggregating their power, putting their money where their mouth is.   There is nothing wrong with that.   That's the point.    

by gobacktotexas 2008-01-01 04:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama

There is no need to bring Oprah into a discussion about 527s, none.  And guess what, me and my neighbors and our friends are not celebrities either and we've aggregated our power by joining together and donating to a Presidential campaign.  No one is trying to stop Unions from doing that.  I'm still waiting for the answer why it is a good thing for them to go beyond that.

by Piuma 2008-01-01 05:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama

Unions' influence in our society is the lowest its been in several decades.   Why shouldn't they use every tool at their disposal to increase it and improve the lives of American workers?

by gobacktotexas 2008-01-01 05:53PM | 0 recs
McElroy NAILS it

Obama can pander on Wall St.  He can take over 70,000 from the big bank in my region (B of A).  He can do his dog and pon show on Wall St. and raise big bucks.  He can money from the likes of Oprah and her fat cat friends.  But if union folks want to put their two cents in they are out of line in Obama's opinion.

Obama is a fraud.

by dpANDREWS 2008-01-01 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: McElroy NAILS it

Obama didn't take $70,000 for B of A and you know it (and if you don't know it you should shut up and listen for once).  What is fraudulent is to claim receiving individual donations from employees of a company is the same as receiving money from that company.  And that's where the Union is out of line.  Let them encourage their membership to chip in their two cents individually, like thousands of small donors are doing for Obama.  Let their fat cat Union leaders plunk down $2300 like Oprah and her fat cat friends are doing.  But if you want the SEIU to put in a million and call it representing their interests, then the B of A will be lining up to put down 10 million to protect theirs.  Wake up.

by Piuma 2008-01-01 12:52PM | 0 recs
See the Charlotte paper

McCain took in the second highest amount with 59,000 or so.

by dpANDREWS 2008-01-01 01:08PM | 0 recs
Trippi on Obama

"If the crowd numbers are that huge, and ours are this small, and they're going to kick our ass then there's no reason to explain it. Just show up and kick our ass. It's better if you don't say anything about it. Anytime anybody starts throwing those kinds of things around, it's because they're in deep shit."

http://www.politicalwire.com/

by dpANDREWS 2008-01-01 01:16PM | 0 recs
Obama is a con

Obama has certainly conned a lot of people.

His "let's all get along" mantra isn't the problem - because there will always be divisions.
Obama wasn't interested in unity when he endorsed Lieberman for re-election!

Obama can't bring Senate Democrats together - much less the country.  Or is he planning to buy Fox News and all the rightwing radio and TV stations that shape public opinion to favor rightwing ideology. Repubs in Congress don't favor abolishing Fox News or rightwing media!

The REAL problem is Washington lobbyists that have FUNDED Obama's political career.

Lobbyists endorsing Obama....
http://www.rollcall.com/politics/kstendo rsements.html

And recent articles indicate Obama has directed lobbyists to early states to campaign for him.

by annefrank 2008-01-01 02:54PM | 0 recs
Obama is a con

Obama has certainly conned a lot of people.

His "let's all get along" mantra isn't the problem - because there will always be divisions.
Obama wasn't interested in unity when he endorsed Lieberman for re-election!

Obama can't bring Senate Democrats together - much less the country.  Or is he planning to buy Fox News and all the rightwing radio and TV stations that shape public opinion to favor rightwing ideology. Repubs in Congress don't favor abolishing Fox News or rightwing media!

The REAL problem is Washington lobbyists that have FUNDED Obama's political career.

Lobbyists endorsing Obama....
http://www.rollcall.com/politics/kstendo rsements.html

And recent articles indicate Obama has directed lobbyists to early states to campaign for him.

by annefrank 2008-01-01 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama: &quot;

The Union leadership support Democrats but most of the rank and File vote for the Republicans

by orin76 2008-01-01 03:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials Obama: &quot;

Well gosh, that's obviously not true.

Democrats have about a 15-20 point edge among union members and union households compared to the non-union portion of the electorate.

by Steve M 2008-01-01 03:36PM | 0 recs
after the 2000 election

I remember seeing some tables about how the vote broke down in various groups.

Voters in families with a union member went 2-1 for Gore.

Voters in gun owners' families went 2-1 for Bush.

Voters in union families that also owned guns split 50-50 between Bush and Gore--seriously!

by desmoinesdem 2008-01-01 09:46PM | 0 recs
How much Obama money comes from the GOP?

Leaving aside technicalites, how much of Obama's money can be traced to GOP supporters? (Hint: maybe the same ones who donated to Nader?)

by 1950democrat 2008-01-01 03:30PM | 0 recs
Union officials

i am AFSCME.

this is what we look like.

i am not a "special interest".
my fellow workers and i NEED to win this election.
too many workers rights issues are at stake.
too many standard of living issues are at stake.
that is why we are supporting hillary.

by campskunk 2008-01-01 03:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials

nice post

by world dictator 2008-01-01 04:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials

Fine support her just like I support my candidate.  Go out and donate money and volunteer and work your ass off. Devote your spare time to getting her elected.  I feel the same way you do, the stakes are high, we need to get this country back on track. Why do you need a 527 with donations above the campaign finance reform rules. If you're not a special interest, why does your union act like one?   I'd love to hear your answer.  

by Piuma 2008-01-01 04:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials

How does a union act like a "special interest"?  Where have we heard this before?  Oh wait, I know:


Speaking on the "Eric Hogue Show" on radio station KTKZ (1380 AM) in Sacramento, the Republican movie actor drew a distinction between contributions from organized labor and Indian gambling tribes -- traditionally Democratic givers he called "real big, powerful special interests" -- and corporate donors.

"Any of those kinds of real big, powerful special interests, if you take money from them, you owe them something," he said.

Any corporate money he takes is irrelevant, Schwarzenegger said, because he wouldn't be influenced by it.

by gobacktotexas 2008-01-01 05:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials

And your point is what? That corporate money is bad but Unions and Indian Gambling Tribes are good.  Or that there is no distinction.  Money is money.  Influence is influence.  If all we do is parse all day nothing will change.

by Piuma 2008-01-01 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials

It's not about parsing.  Do you think that unions have too much influence over the political process and over our society?  Are these groups, whose purpose is to advocate the interests of workers, too powerful in our political process?  If you believe in a more progressive society, you should want unions to have more power, a bigger voice in our society, and corporations to have less.   They are not the same thing.  

by gobacktotexas 2008-01-01 05:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Union officials

As you quite rightly say, the purpose of Unions is to advocate interests of workers, not all workers, but the workers of that Union, period.  I don't equate giving them a bigger voice as tantamount to a progressive society since there are time when those interests will be in opposition our common interest, for instance, I don't look to Unions to promote pro-Environmental causes.  And certainly Unions have been part of the larger problem of graft and corruption in the Government, especially on the city and state levels.  They are a special interest, a decent one, one that we as Democrats are more sympathetic to than not, but they are a special interest nevertheless.  The idea of campaign reform and lobbyist & PAC reform, is to get them out of influencing elections and overshadowing the individual voter, and remove them from being allowed to continue the practice of encouraging corruption.  It is not to take away completely their voice and influence.

Exactly what is the problem with limiting the Unions influence to bundling individual campaign contributions from their members and organizing volunteers, outreach, and GOTV, all in conjunction with the candidates campaign?  

by Piuma 2008-01-01 06:44PM | 0 recs
nurses, teachers, firemen -- special interests?

That's what Schwartznegger was calling them a few years ago.

by 1950democrat 2008-01-01 06:41PM | 0 recs

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